Barbara Vereen

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Barbara Vereen


Barbara Vereen is organizing director of Local 34-UNITE HERE. Lives in New Haven, Connecticut.

Education

  • Studied Human Services/Social Work at Albertus Magnus College
  • Went to Richard C. Lee High School

Career

  • Worked at Yale New Haven Hospital
  • Worked at Yale University

2020 Amistad awards

December 2020, from the moment the dramatic African drumming and slide show of the marches, rallies, car caravans, strikes, and election campaigns began, it was certain this would be an extraordinary and uplifting People's World Amistad Awards program.

Transformed from a large in-person statewide annual event into a virtual concert and awards, the program, “United for the World We Want—Celebrating Resilience, Solidarity, and Vision,” was held “in tribute to essential workers and all workers regardless of immigration status during the pandemic, the rise of the movement for Black lives, and the voter upsurge for democratic rights.”

The four awardees, each reflecting consistent and powerful organizing for worker rights, equality, and social justice, inspired participants with their live remarks as they received the large framed Amistad poster. The famed BODOMA Garifuna Culture Band, meanwhile, kept the spirit going with musical entertainment

Barbara Vereen, Unite Here staff director of Local 34 and the Black Leadership Group, told of her journey from witnessing a strike at the Winchester plant as a child growing up in the projects, to her first sit-down action at a nursing home with 1199, to community organizing to stop gentrification of her neighborhood, to getting a good union job at Yale and becoming a union leader while raising her three sons.

Vereen stressed her work in training new leaders. “I am part of the Unite Here Black Leadership Group,” said Vereen. “Not only are people who look like me in the room, but we are bringing more Black people in our union into leadership because our lives matter. We want to move people forward, we want equity in this country.”

Vereen received the award from two former awardees, Ken Suzuki and, by video, Rev. Scott Marks, speaking from the front lines in Georgia where he is leading a large team of Unite Here members. They are informing voters of their rights in the runoff election that will determine control of the U.S. Senate.

“My car is already packed,” Vereen said in conclusion. “From here I am driving down to Georgia to campaign for the two U.S. Senate seats and finish the victory of defeating Trump.” She called upon participants to make calls to Georgia as she knocks on doors.

“Unity Against Special Oppression"

Hundreds gathered June 2019 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Communist Party USA (CPUSA). The party’s 31st National Convention was held at the University of Illinois campus in Chicago and ran for three consecutive days. The event featured a variety of speakers, such as Samaria Rice, the mother of Tamir Rice, who was slain by Cleveland police in 2014, Chicago activist Pepe Lozano, CPUSA national chair John Bachtell.

In the first of several workshops on Friday, titled “Unity Against Special Oppression; For equality and democracy,” focused on the ways in which communities can resist the racist and divisive policies implemented by the Trump administration and work together to build stronger communities. Featured speakers on the panel, included party members Joe Henry, Cori Marshall, and UNITE HERE Chief Steward Barbara Vereen.

Discussion topics ranged from protecting immigrant communities and the denial of reproductive rights to increasing voter turnout. Joe Henry, who serves as the National Vice President of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) for the 12 states that comprise the Midwest region, focused on the numerous threats currently facing immigrants. “We need to push for legal status of all immigrants,” he asserted, “not just DACA recipients.”

Panelist speaker Barbara Vereen, emphasized the importance of intentionally uplifting women in the movement. “Be inclusive to the point where it makes you uncomfortable,” Vereen said, highlighting her experiences as a Black woman in leftist spaces.

Vereen also encouraged convention delegates to reframe the way they think about diversity and inclusion, noting that Black women need to be put in leadership positions—not just included in discussions. “Hold outside organizations accountable, but let’s also hold ourselves accountable.” Her remarks were met with applause.[1]

References